So I’m writing this bog from a farm near La Cumbre (30 mins from there) in a pueblo (definitely a village, not a city or a town) and we work hard here! I’m talking 7 hours a day of work with coffee plants (whether it’s picking cherries, clearing the area around the coffee trees, splitting the beans from the cherries that we just picked, drying them, etc. The whole process for coffee happens here, and I know all about it now! Also, their coffee here is superb. I’m buying some to bring with me to Cartagena next lol. They are very particular with how they pick their coffee at the right time (instead of using machines that harvest the entire “range” of coffee cherries, even if they’re not ripe yet) and then throw away the bad ones (that float to the top in water) which most places don’t do because of the time involved for so little a reward). Basically, their coffee is like super high-quality and you can tell. Also, it’s not bitter because the coffee bean that grows here in the mountains is the arobusta type, the arabica bean grows in the lowlands and is more caffeine-heavy with a stronger, more bitter taste, whereas the one here (which they don’t blend with the arabica) is soft and smooth and less caffeinated. It’s so good!!
I hear the frogs in the evening the birds all throughout the day, and get bit by huge mosquitos too! I’m getting the whole experience. Here is the view from the dining table, which is outside. 🙂 (immediately is to the left, and second image is straight ahead)
So anyway, it’s now been three months (well, by the time I post this blog post, it will have been 3 months) since I have started traveling, or what I call “funemployment.” I’ve done a small check-in, but I was recently talking with my best friend Ryan about what I’ve learned and how I’m doing, and one thing I’d like to share with you are some of my (realized) many weaknesses. Like wow…I have a lot of weaknesses.
Part of this is due to listening to Tim Ferriss podcasts (whom I love) because his podcast is kind of designed for entrepreneurs, business-focused themes, and how to become better in whatever field you’re in. Also, I’ll just say this – it’s also about being happy with your life. Learning how to be content, to have few things, to have rituals that provide grounding and peace and a tranquil spirit…these are also important elements of his podcast, and I enjoy them just as much as I enjoy thinking about his business strategies and habits of successful people in all kinds of industries and fields. I forget exactly how he phrases it, but it’s something along the line of teaching the tools, habits, and strategies of successful people in all kinds of industries that we can apply in our own lives and test to see if they work for us – and a large part of that is also finding joy and happiness in your life.
Anyway, I digress. The other part of realizing my weaknesses, besides the many podcast episodes, is just thinking by myself – after all, I have a lot of time. For instance, I spend a lot of time hating myself on buses.
Seriously, I hate buses.
I hate being on them for 8-12 hours at a time; I hate drinking a lot and still being sick; I hate taking my motion-sickness medicine that drains me completely of water, though they ensure that I don’t throw up; and generally I just hate everything about them.
I try not to do night buses (which means I waste my days on them) for a couple of reasons, including not being able to sleep on them (because why fuck up your sleep cycle and possibly miss your stop and miss the views when you’re not going to fall asleep anyway) and flying is more expensive than I want to pay at this point. I would say that I’m a pro at taking buses, but they definitely make my life worse. And can you really say you’re a pro at something that is so bad for your life?
With that time on buses, I also have time to reflect. Like when I’m bored of listening to music or podcasts and can’t focus on Spanish because I’m sick, and I don’t want to talk in my bad Spanish to the stranger next to me on the bus… I take the time to think! And one of the things that I’ve been thinking about…is my many weaknesses.
So without further ado, here are a couple that I’ve realized on my trip.
- It is easy for me to get caught up in others’ energy and then not be self-determined. My image of this is like being swept away in a wave. If I’m not careful, I get caught up in their lifestyles, their decisions, and I just go along with it. I realized, for instance, while I was in San Gil (a small town in Colombia where there are lots of outdoor activities), that here I was paying all this money for bungee jumping and like team-building exercises (rappelling down water falls, doing crazy flips into deep pools of water, and what-not), and I was like “why am I doing this? I don’t even like this kind of stuff!”. Eventually, I did some reflection and was glad for these activities because I was able to stretch myself and do things I don’t normally do (also they’re cheaper than in the USA), but the lesson learned was that it’s easy for me to just do what everyone else is doing without doing some deeper analysis of my motivations and whether or not I liked it.
- On a related note, it’s also easy for me to just do things that I don’t like because they’re easy. For instance, not confront people who do things to me that I don’t like (like being passive-aggressive). Once I realize it, I think I’m pretty good about confronting it, but it takes energy for me to gather myself and then confront them, so if I don’t have the energy, or if I’m trying to gather the energy needed to do so, I will often just let them walk over me. Many examples could be given, but I’ll let you use your imagination.
- I’m not that great with people. I used to think I was, and I guess I am in certain settings, but for the most part, and maybe it’s just me getting older (and not being in the college scene where gregariousness was easy to tap into for me), but I have concluded that I’m just not that great with people, especially with strangers, like on the bus or at the hostel. I just don’t want to talk to them. I make myself sometimes, especially when I can practice my Spanish and I know I need to do that, but for the most part, it’s a struggle for me. It’s certainly not easy or natural. So to assist me with number three, I’ve been trying to apply the traits from that book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I’m trying to ask them questions, let them talk, let them take ownership of ideas that I want them to have, etc. I’m trying to be encouraging and generous and positive, and I definitely notice myself being more like that. (I’m a fairly optimistic person naturally but still, I’m changing more toward this mindset.) I definitely believe it’s helping.
- I take time to think about how I want to better myself, but sometimes moving from the “thinking” to the “planning” stage takes an exorbitant amount of time. Yeah, it’s easy to sometimes think of things that I want to change (like make my bed in the mornings, or stretch) but then to develop a routine or habit where this actually gets accomplished is not that easy. For instance, I’ve wanted to develop an hour-long routine in the mornings that involves making the bed, stretching, working out, meditating for ten minutes, and practicing Spanish. Have I done this? Nope! Have I thought about doing such a routine? Yes, for weeks! Literally…like at least 15 days LOL. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that I haven’t gotten around to it yet and yet… that’s my life. Part of my difficulty, I think, is not having a regular schedule where I can set apart time to do that and where I can make sure that my day is already organized…but when you have to come up with what you’re doing for most of the hours in a day, that takes a lot of mental energy that I just don’t have! It’s also why my blog posts are so irregular! Also, this is why today, while I have hours and hours free, I’m going to plan out an hour-long morning routine. 🙂
- I’m not very organized. If you know me, you already know this, but here’s an example. I was asked to help clean up the coffee tree areas (clear the ground of the bushes and vines and weeds, which allows the coffee trees to be located (always helpful, especially in the nascent stages when they’re small) and also have less competition for nutrients. However, this ordered nature of systematically going through the trees, row by row, is really hard for me. I just kind of go, and get stuck in that energy of going, and then I’m not ordered. I go up and down, left and right, and I’m just a mess. The poor lady here is happy that I’m working hard and diligently the entire time, but I KNOW that she’s OCD and that my chaos nature are not mixing as well as they could be. And the bad thing is…I try! I really do. I try to keep my stuff organized, and then she tells me my room is a mess, so then I clean up the room and she mentions that there was a spill (droplets, I might add) in the kitchen and so I try to clean up that, and there’s just so much to remember because I’m so bad at being ordered naturally!! I feel like I never win with her (which is probably true). So I compensate for this by cleaning the dishes, always offering to help in the kitchen (when I’m not required or even asked to do so), and trying my hardest to be clean for her. We’re doing fine, btw, it’s just a source of … tension that wouldn’t exist if I was different.
Here’s another realization of mine, but it’s not a weakness realization, so I’m letting it have its own section. I think I am on the cusp of a breakthrough in Spanish. I think life involves going from one breakthrough to the next, whether this be in self-knowledge, in learning a new skill, in finishing a project for work, or whatever else. “Breakthrough” might seem too radical, but I’m using it anyway.
So anyway, about the breakthrough: my Spanish is alright. I can talk with most people about a variety of subjects. And unless they mumble real bad (like at the village here), I normally know at least 70% of what’s going on around me when others are talking directly to me or about me. But I think that for me to really jump in my Spanish comprehension, I will need to take some focused time to learn it. I’m talking 6-hours-a-day focus.
So before more time passes by, I am going to finish out my HelpX volunteering here and spend at least two weeks (maybe more) in some city near the ocean starting this Friday (Cartagena or maybe a city nearby) and just plop myself down at a desk with wifi and watch Spanish videos, focus on Spanish podcasts, do free Spanish worksheets from web resources, etc. and even go to places to practice my Spanish (like with bartenders or with strangers at a park). Good things take time, and languages at my age take a lot of time – or maybe it’s just me. 😛 If you know of any resources, please send them my way! I’m looking for more ideas.
Normally, I would say I’m pretty good at learning languages (Spanish is my fourth language to learn, after all, after English and Chinese and Indonesian), but Spanish is MUCH harder than I thought, and it’s very different from Chinese and Indonesian (both of which are very similar). So I’m going to pay for a Netflix subscription, do a lot of Spanish work (much more than my typical 1-hour-a-day, if that) and see what breakthroughs happen. I may even hire a Spanish teacher, just whatever it takes.
I’ll close this blog post by saying some fun things that I either agree with and want to remind myself of…or that I want to think about more. These are from the episodes of the Tim Ferriss blog.
- If you don’t apply principles that you want to live by in a small, unimportant situation, then what are the odds you will apply them in big important situations?
- You’re never as good as they say you are – and you’re never as bad as they say you are (Mike Rowe).
- Goats just be, they have no job they have to do.
- What are my flaws and how am I overcompensating for them? Asking about one’s weaknesses, like for Malcolm Gladwell, tells you very little about them because, at least for good people, they are overcompensating for them too much.
- Good things take time…lots of time.
- Try to optimize processes and things that you don’t like, and DON’T optimize things for things that you enjoy doing. Just relax and take time to enjoy the things that you enjoy doing.
- Having fewer things allows you to showcase your treasure and the special/important parts that you want to showcase (such as your best self, your best house, etc.) You can’t show off your treasure in a cluttered space.
- Stop exploring when you’ve found something worth staying for.
- Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t suck at it. And just because it’s futile doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. (Mike Rowe, who’s AMAZING at telling great and funny stories…highly recommend any interviews with him)
- Have space for purposelessness, and embrace it. Reorient yourself to enjoy the joy of purposelessness. Not everything has to be a means to an end. Be grounded in the absurd.